(…continued) Margaret was crushed. She could not believe what she was reading. She did not know what she would do or how she could tell the children. For days she could not talk to the children about it. Finally one of the children said, “Mommy, is something wrong? Did something happen to Daddy? You seem so sad and we have not received any letters for a very long time.”
“Yes,” she replied, “there is something wrong.”
“Is Daddy not coming back?,” they asked.
“No, he is not coming back,” she replied.
“Why isn’t he coming back?” they asked.
“He has fallen in love with somebody else in Japan and he is going to stay there with her,” said their mother.
The little ones could not understand it. All they knew was that they were not going to see their daddy anymore. Finally, one of the children said, “Mommy, just because daddy doesn’t love us anymore, does that mean we can’t love him anymore?”
The mother thought about it for a while, and then finally she said, “No, we are allowed to love him.”
Then one of the children said, “Will you please write to daddy and ask him to keep writing to us because we still love him?”
And so even though the mother did not feel very much like continuing the contact, she did so for the boys’ sake. Every letter would break her heart. It turned out her husband was going to quit the army and marry the 15-year old servant girl who had been working for him. As time went on, he had some children by that marriage, and life went on for all.
A few years later Margaret received another shocking letter. “Dear Margaret,” it said, “I am sorry I have to write this to you, but I have cancer and do not have long to live. I do not have any money saved to support my family in the future, there are no jobs, and I don’t know how they will survive. Would it possible for you to save some money every month after I die, and send it to my family here to help them?”
Margaret’s first reaction was anger, as one might well expect. But as she held the letter, she kept thinking back to what her little boy had said many years before: “Just because he doesn’t love us anymore, does that mean we aren’t allowed to love him?” So she wrote back and said, “I don’t have any extra money to send. I would if I could, but you have to understand that we are barely surviving here. But this is what I will do. After you die, you can send your wife and children here to America. I will teach them the language and help them to become self-supporting. They can come into our home and live with us. I will help them.”
After his death, the man’s Japanese family came and lived with the American family that he had abandoned. Margaret taught them English, got them on their feet, and eventually they were able to support themselves.
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Margaret ended the article saying: “I had two choices. I could have looked back upon my life and cursed that man every moment for what he had done to me. I could have kept my anger alive, and thus, find myself broken and battered twice over. Or, I could thank God for giving me the privilege to let His light shine in one very dark place in this world.”
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I don’t know what Paul was getting at when he said ‘Love never fails,’ but I think this might be an example of what he meant.
This is indeed an incredible story. You might wonder if it is even true or if someone made it all up just to sell an article. I have sometimes wondered if those magazines take the time to check out the truth of their stories.
But I know such forgiveness and love is possible because I knew a family with a similar story. The experiences of the family I knew differed in many of the details from the Guideposts story, but it was the same in all the main points. There was a loving family, and then adultery, separation, divorce, and then a death. In the family I knew, it was the abandoned husband and his new wife who came and helped the former wife after the death of her second husband, leaving her with two small children. I did the funeral for the young man who died, and in the weeks and months that followed I saw much of the two families and how they worked together. It was an amazing thing to see, and a testimony to the whole community of the power of Christian love and forgiveness and service.
Love does fail, but love can also persevere. Granted, most situations do not work out this way. Others work out in other ways. Many do not work out at all. The stories above worked out only after someone died. In many situations, even when one tries to be loving, the other only wants to be mean. In many other situations there is no love at all. Sin has made this a wicked and messy world. In both of the above stories there were actions that were sinful and unloving, but there were also actions that were full of incredible Christian forgiveness and love that brought healing.
I Corinthians 13 describes what Paul learned about love from the life of Jesus. Those like Margaret, who have been inspired by the example of Jesus to find ways to do what is most loving, make the world a better place. We must keep that in mind, for it is what our Lord has commanded us to do.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said, “and do for them what you would want done for you.” In doing so we, like Margaret said, are given the opportunity to shine the light of Christ in some very dark places.
I John 4:7a — Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
I John 4:19 — We love because he first loved us.
John 15:13 — (Jesus said), “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
My God I love you, believe in you, and trust in you. Help us to love one another as you love us. Amen.
–Mother Teresa (1910-1997)